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    Kaplan University - KHE

    MS in Nursing

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    Medical Careers Institute

    RN to BSN

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    Fortis Institute

    Medical Assistant

Clinical Nurse Specialist

A clinical nurse specialist is a highly trained or an advance practice nurse with a graduate or doctorate level education. Besides the provision of regular day care to patients, clinical nurse specialists (CNS) also specialize in the treatment of certain diseases. The work environments for CNS are very versatile, varying from an operating room, emergency room or critical care, while they can also specialize in certain types of diseases such as diabetes, HIV, or cancer.

The level of expertise of clinical nurse specialists is higher than even expert level staff nurses, and they are specialists at diagnosing and treating illnesses by providing evidence-based treatments. They can also provide expertise in advanced assessment as well as evaluating the outcomes of nursing care. Their scope of work is not restricted to clinical practice alone, and includes teaching, research, consulting and management. They also work with other nurses and practitioners to provide clinical advice for improving the overall health system.

Given their multi-faceted role, clinical nurse specialists have three broads ‘spheres of influence’:

  • Patients/families – assisting patients through the diagnosis and treatment of illnesses
  • Nursing personnel – Coaching, building teams and collaborating with others for better patient and health care
  • System/network organization – conducting research, evaluating outcomes and making ethical decisions

Thus, a CNS career is a very versatile one.


• Education requirements

Becoming a CNS is quite a challenging feat. One must complete a masters or a doctorate level degree in nursing, with a focus on becoming a clinical nurse specialist. Following this, students will have to pass the national nurse licensing exams administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). Once licensing exams have been passed, a clinical nurse specialist certification exam has to be cleared. This is conducted by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), and exam can provide certification for a variety of medical areas including mental health, adult health, pediatrics, diabetes, community health, etc.


• Job prospects and salary:

Latest surveys indicate a growing demand for clinical nurse specialists, much than for any other occupations. Because they are advanced practice nurses, they can provide primary care to patients, without having to bear the extra expense of hiring a physician, which is particularly advantageous for medically under-served areas such as rural areas. The higher the level of training, expertise and experience, the greater is the demand. They can also choose to work in a variety of medical environments including hospitals, clinics, home care systems, private practices and schools.

The median salary for clinical nurse specialists is fairly high at about $90,000 per year. This can vary based on the specialization, experience, and location among many other factors.

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